I had a professor who once worked with Orson Welles in the latter part of that filmmaker’s career and told several anecdotes about him in class. At that point in his life, Welles was completely fed up with what he called “the acolyte”: someone who would figuratively grovel at his feet and praise his artistic genius. My professor got along with (and even partied in Vegas with!) the actor/director because he treated him in a professional manner, like anyone else on the set. Welles really responded to his sincerity.
Unfortunately, “the acolyte” is alive and well on the internet. I’ve seen far too many blog and message board posts by fanboys (and fangirls) of certain filmmakers, far too much venomous back-and-forth by people who feel they have to build their guy up by knocking everyone else down, far too much arguing about what is or isn’t objectively good in the world of cinema. There exists a seemingly infinite number of people ready to congratulate themselves for appreciating director x’s auteur vision and to accuse everyone else of “just not getting it.”
I want to do something very different with my blog; instead of creating a cinematic canon of ranked lists, I’m much more interesting in how we relate to us as individuals. While I am going to do some reviews (The idea of watching 25-30 films from a given year and really getting into the zeitgeist really fascinates me), I’ll mostly focus on stuff I know and love. Mid-Century Cinema is about the films that speak to me on a personal level despite being released decades before my birth.
I chose the specific time period (roughly the mid ’30s to the mid ’60s) for a few reasons. First off, my art history studies have given me a love of strong compositions, something one don’t see often in the modern, “shaky cam” era. While handheld camera is a valid artistic choice in certain situations, I greatly prefer the well-crafted frame compositions that were the style decades ago: over the past few years, I’ve seen many films in theaters whose cinematography completely distracted me from the characters. I guess I’m just naturally drawn to less obtrusive camerawork.
Secondly, this era was a cinematic golden age on a global level, with classics emerging from around the world: the Hollywood dream factory operating at full capacity, Bollywood’s monumental epics, India’s parallel cinema, Japanese filmmaking at its peak, Italian neo-realism, poetic realism,French New Wave, ’40s Britain overflowing with talent behind the camera, film noir, gothic horror, the weird and wonderful world of b-movies. I’m going to talk about a few of the highlights.